(Six starter portions)
300g potatoes, peeled and cut into 0.5cm cubes
100g onions, chopped
150g green of leeks, chopped
1litre chicken stock
150g stinging nettle leaves, washed and chopped
6 large sorrel leaves
Salt and pepper
6 pieces of smoked eel
150ml crème fraîche
First, send a commis chef out to gather the stinging nettles without rubber gloves! Only joking - make sure you wear rubber gloves and use scissors. Snip only the very youngest nettles, as these have a better flavour and are best in the spring. Nettles are a great source of iron and are meant to be good for purifying the blood.
To make the soup, put the butter in a saucepan, then add the onions, potatoes and leeks. Stir, place a lid on and sweat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softening with no colour. Pour in the chicken stock and cook until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the nettles and simmer for a few minutes. Do not overcook the nettles or they will lose their flavour and colour. Pour in the cream and two shredded sorrel leaves. Then liquidise, taste and season.
To serve, place a small piece of smoked eel at the bottom of each bowl, pour the hot soup over, and finish with a teaspoon of crème fraîche and some shredded sorrel.
This is a very earthy flavoured dish with the nettle and eel, so I think it's better served as an "amuse" rather than a full starter. You can also replace the eel with hot smoked salmon.
James Mackenzie, chef-proprietor, the Pipe and Glass Inn, South Dalton, East Yorkshire